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NAME

CHARLES DE GAULLE

CLASS

AIRCRAFT CARRIER

ENT/SERVICE

2000

BUILT

D.C.N. INTERNATIONAL / BREST / FRANCE

WEIGHT

35,500 TONS

LENGTH

858 FEET

WIDTH

103 FEET - FLIGHT DECK 211 FEET

SPEED

27 KNOTS

PROPELLERS

2 - 19 FEET 19 TONS

ENGINES

2 - NUCLEAR REACTORS POWERING 2 GEARED STEAM TURBINES - 76,200 HP

AIRCRAFT

40 - SUPER ETENDARD / RAFALE MARINE & 2 HELICOPTERS


Charles de Gaulle is currently Europe's largest warship and the first European aircraft carrier to be powered by nuclear reactors. This carrier developed serious mechanical problems during her builder’s trials in July 1999. With these design faults taking months to resolve, she eventually entered service in April 2000. Charles de Gaulle’s first series of exercises for the French Navy had to be abandoned in November of that year after she developed a serious problem with one propeller. As the reserve propellers had the same quality problems, she was fitted with the spare propellers from the ageing carrier Foch, this reducing her top speed to about 24 knots.

Charles de Gaulle (R91)
Charles de Gaulle at sea, Large Image.

The French Navy cancelled a second aircraft carrier of this class after realizing the full cost of the nuclear propulsion system. The French are now considering participating in the British CV(F) project. This design will see Britain return to conventional takeoff and landing carriers that can carry the larger supersonic jets. These ships will replace the small vertical takeoff and landing carriers Britain has operated since the 1970s. The CV(F) design will exceed 65,000 tons and be powered by conventional fuel.

With the French Navy having to rebuild their fleet after World War Two, Britain loaned France their 18,000-ton carrier Colossus in 1946. After being renamed Arromanches, she entered service for the French Navy as their first true carrier. From 1949, they frequently deployed that carrier to the Indo China War of 1946 - 1954 (the French colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, with the backing of Russia, fighting to gain independence from France). Arromanches was eventually sold to France in 1951, operated until 1974, and scrapped at Toulon in 1978. The French Navy also acquired two 15,000-ton United States carriers Langley and Beleau Wood in 1951. These carriers served with the French fleet until they were returned to the United States in the early 1960s. Both carriers were decommissioned on their return and scrapped soon after.

Foch aircraft carrier
Foch making a tight turn at sea, Large Image.

The 32,000-ton Clemenceau class carriers began entering service for the French Navy in 1961. Both ships in this class had to serve as their main carriers for over 30 years due to the cancellation of their intended replacements. In the late 1970s early 1980s, these carriers had to undergo extensive refits so they could stay in service until the late 1990s. Since the French Navy decommissioned Clemenceau in September 1997 and sold Foch to the Brazilian Navy November 15th 2000, their only remaining operational carrier is Charles de Gaulle. Foch underwent an extensive refit at Brest before joining the Brazilian Navy as a replacement for their aging carrier Minas Gerais. She has since been renamed Sao Paulo. The carrier Clemenceau was scrapped in India in 2010.

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